I still remember vividly sitting in the back room of my parent's house in Melbourne, Australia, thinking about leaving home for a few years and moving to Canada. I had just submitted my application form to XCOttawa and was wondering what on earth I had just done.
Two and a half years on and I am back in that same room, working full time as a physiotherapist again and trying to stay cool in the 39 degree heat of summer. I have been home three months now and skiing the gorgeous trails of Gatineau park seems like a lifetime ago. Yet that single decision to move to Ottawa and to take skiing seiously, and I mean really seriously, has meant I achieved lifelong goals, realised my wildest dreams, made eternal friends and had an incredible life experience in Canada's capital city.
XCOttawa is now taking applications for next year's team and I urge all of you budding skiers who have aspirations and are highly motivated to join up and move to Ottawa.
I personally believe XCOttawa provides the amateur xc ski racer with the ideal platform to realise their goals, whether that be skiing top 10 at natioanls, making the Ontario team or competing in World Cup and World Championships. I had spent 4 years as a member of the Australian XC Ski Team and I was surprised to hear from many Canadian skiers as to how lucky I was. I am not sure what exactly they were referring to, but I consider myself anything but lucky. If it was the honour of representing your country around the world, then yes...I am very lucky. But let me explain what my ski life in Australia consists of.
Rollerskiing rules - make no mistake about it, living 2 hrs from the nearest snow and 5 hours from reliable tracks, rollerskiing becomes a big part of your life. Most days rollerskiing alone, in less than ideal roads becomes very taxing mentally as much as physically. People don't ooohh and ahhh over rollerskiing in Melbourne, they throw beer cans at you and tell you that there isn't any snow at the bottom of the next hill. Sure that happens in Canada too, but nowhere near as much. I would rollerksi all week even during winter, then tear up to the snow on the weekend to desperately practice my technique I had learned from watching various world cup videos. No one cares about skiing in Australia, there is no fame and no accolades. Not many people realise cross country skiing is anything more than trudging about in un-groomed snow with leather boots, wooden skis and pack on. Many times I have been asked "How do you know where to go, since it is cross country"??????
More importantly there is no money. At all. The national team coach lives with his Dad and barely has enough income to buy a car. We pay for our own uniforms with Australia on the back and never can you get top performance race skis for less than $600! We buy our own waxes, beg, steal or borrow top of the range poles and often travel to races alone, wax alone....in fact do most things alone.
Now lets talk about XC Ottawa. A reasonable team fee covers race waxing, uniforms, race suits, there are people to travel to races to, people to train with, a very experienced and component coach, access to top-of-the-range race equipment and a fantastic environment to develop your skiing.
Where else can you ski 15 minutes (12 if you drive like me) from a downtown core that has everything a larger city has to offer? Where else can you ski perfectly groomed trails, then take in Swan Lake, then go out for a fantastic dinner, all within 15 mins of each other. (I never watched Swan Lake, but the NAC does have it showing!!!)
Coach John Suuronen put me in a simple, yet highly effective program that took my skiing to the next level. I managed to slowly improve my classic technique to the point where I qualified for the World Championships in a classic event and my best FIS results were in classic. This is while John Suuronen closely watches your technique throughout every training session. This is almost unheard of in Australia.
XCOttawa has a great mix of fine athletes that makes traveling to races a pleasurable experience, rather than a solo mission wrought with boredom. XCOttawa often has some of the best waxed skis in the field, you can ski on top equipment for a reasonable price and in essence provides you with everything you could possibly need to succeed at the highest level. Australian skiers by comparison may have plenty of experience in waxing with klister, but the more important factors of race support and training support are far outweighed.
The only thing you need to bring is a positive attitude, a healthy dose of motivation and the mental attitude to succeed at the highest level and XCOttawa can take you as high as you want to go.
So I say sign up, throw your hat into the ring and see how far you can go...........it worked for me!
Andrew racing for XC Ottawa.
Andrew training in Australia.